Thursday, August 18, 2022

Who are the bookies’ favourites as we reach the knockout stage of EURO 2020?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, European Championships 24 Jun 2021

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With all eyes focused on what was a rollercoaster final round of group fixtures on Wednesday night, the 16 final nations finally took shape after a pair of 2-2 draws in Budapest and Munich.

24 hours after Scotland once again missed out on the chance to book their first-ever spot in the knockout stage of a major tournament, Hungary found themselves suffering a similar heartbreak on foreign soil.

Watching the heavyweight trio of France, Germany and Portugal all eventually claw their way out of ‘the group of death’ in midweek, we have also seen the likes of Italy and Holland shock many across the continent.

On a list that doesn’t include either the defending champions or the team that sits number one in the FIFA rankings, we have taken a look at the three leading picks with the bookmakers to come out on top this summer.

France – 4/1 with 888sport

Having to come from behind and eventually settling for a shock 1-1 draw out in Budapest last weekend against a plucky Hungary side, all eyes were firmly on France in what was a heavyweight showdown in midweek.

Signing off their Group F campaign with a meeting against defending European champions Portugal, Les Bleus once again failed to lay down much of a marker as they played out a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night.

Snatching top spot and fending off both Portugal and Germany despite only mustering back-to-back points, many still have Didier Deschamps’ star-studded squad tipped to be crowned both European and world champions this summer.

Watching the returning Karim Benzema bag himself a brace in midweek and only adding to France’s already stacked attacking options, The Blues will now be focused on their round of 16 meeting against Switzerland on Monday night.

However, showing some recent flaws in their back-to-back meetings against Hungary and Portugal, France don’t hold the most convincing of records against their knockout stage opponents.

Aside from a 5-2 win when the two nations faced off back in the 2014 World Cup finals, Deschamps’ side have had to settle for a point in each of their other four meetings against The Swiss at a major tournament.

Italy – 6/1 with Betfair

While many neutrals from across Europe might have tipped Turkey as their dark horse shout, there is no doubt that Italy laid down the most stunning of markers when they opened this summer’s delayed tournament in Rome.

Missing out on the World Cup finals three years ago and a squad that really needed rebuilding, Gli Azzurri have found their feet under former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini and they have only continued to break records.

Storming their way through Group A and collecting a maximum of nine points, the four-time world champions also now find themselves enjoying a remarkable 30-match unbeaten run, matching a record that has stood for 82 years.

Gaining a real reputation for their rugged displays at the back and now going over 1000 minutes without picking the ball out of their own net, Mancini’s side will now be preparing for a showdown against Austria on Saturday night.

While Franco Foda’s side might have managed to land that vital 1-0 win against Ukraine earlier in the week, Italy hold a rampant record against their round of 16 opponents.

Gli Azzurri are unbeaten in each of their last 13 meetings against Austria and have also won each of their four meetings against Das Team at a major tournament.

England – 15/2 with Unibet

Although England might have come under real scrutiny for their performance in that 0-0 stalemate against British rivals Scotland last weekend, The Three Lions managed to make an immediate return to winning ways when signing off their Group D campaign in midweek.

Eventually claiming a 1-0 win against the Czech Republic on home soil and ending their three contests with seven points to their name, Gareth Southgate’s side are still looking to find top gear this summer.

Only opening this year’s delayed tournament with a pair of scrappy 1-0 victories against Bulgaria and fellow finalists Austria earlier in the month, Southgate might have a headache over his squad’s issues in the final third.

With Harry Kane looking a shadow of the player that lifted his third Premier League Golden Boot this season, England have failed to record more than a single strike in any of their last five appearances across all formats.

However, yet to pick the ball out of their own net this summer, The Lions know that they will face another high-pressure night when their arch enemy arrives at Wembley on Tuesday.

In their first meeting at a major tournament since that controversial showdown out in South Africa 11 years ago, Southgate’s men will host a German side who really clawed their way to the knockout stage thanks to a 2-2 draw against Hungary in midweek.


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan



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